Justin Cook interviews Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams executive producers Isa Dick Hackett, Michael Dinner, David Kanter and Ronald D. Moore…
Soon enough, The Man in the High Castle won’t be the only Philip K. Dick-based TV show on Amazon Video, as several short stories written by the late author will finally be realized on screen in the 10-episode anthology series Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. While viewers in the UK have already been enjoying the series on Channel 4 (check out our review of the latest episode here), US audiences will have to wait until next year to see the show. Luckily, however, they can tide themselves over with the mysterious and meditative new trailer released in conjunction with the show’s New York Comic Con panel last week.
At Comic Con, Flickering Myth picked the brains of Electric Dreams executive producers Isa Dick Hackett (the daughter of Philip K. Dick), Michael Dinner, David Kanter and Ronald D. Moore and found out more about everything from Dick’s legacy to Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone’s influence on the show.
Why do you think your father’s stories hold as much weight today as they did several decades ago, especially in the case of The Man in the High Castle and Electric Dreams?
Isa Dick Hackett: I actually think they hold more weight. He died in relative obscurity, which most people don’t know. Maybe we’ve caught up to some of the ideas. He was considered somebody who had a lot of paranoid thoughts, didn’t necessarily resonate with people. I think now a lot of us are starting to look around and realize that we’re quesitoning our own reality, which makes me think a lot about my dad’s work, which was a constant questioning of reality. There are some people right now that are creating their own reality, which is then bleeding into other people’s reality, so it feels like we’re in a Philip K. Dick novel right now. I do think that the universal themes, the sort of existential explorations resonate with people because they just are fundamental questions that we all grapple with.
Why do you think Amazon is the right platform for Electric Dreams?
Michael Dinner: We started developing it with Channel 4 in Great Britain and then Amazon stepped in also. It’s kind of cool to do a streaming show – I hadn’t done one until last year. I also do the show Sneaky Pete, so I had never done a streaming show before. It’s weird, it’s like you do all your work and then all of a sudden, bang, it’s up… but you know in a weird way because it’s an anthology I kind of liken this to… there are some novels that are collections of short stories, that each chapter stands on its own as a short story, like Winesburg, Ohio or The Dubliners, and in a way, if this works, it’s like that. So the idea that it goes up at the same time and you can read a chapter or go on to the next chapter or read the last chapter, is kind of exciting I think. But it is an odd thing – the streaming model is strange. We went up on Sneaky Pete last year, that’s the first time I experienced it, it’s like all of a sudden it’s there and it’s up at 12:01. Some people respond immediately, like they just seen an airing on regular TV or cable, and some people three months later will discover it. In some ways, it’s a really good venue for anthology, instead of doing it week by week. To me, it’s more exciting to put the novel up and see if people like the book.
Were there any anthology series that you used as an inspiration or jumping off point for Electric Dreams?
David Kanter: We talked a lot about The Twilight Zone. Not structurally, but what Michael [Dinner] would talk about a lot was his experience watching as a kid knowing that there was this almost reassuring voice at the beginning and the camera tilts up to the heavens, and you start this journey. He always felt like that what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna start each episode in way that you know that you’re going to be on this incredible journey. Through development and through selling the show, it was like ‘What’s the theme?,’ ‘How do you make them consistent?,’ and we’re like – we kind of don’t know. Let us finish the work and then we believe that what is essentially Philip K. Dick will filter up and will be surrounded by the Philip K. Dick sensibility and the feelings. What we talked about a lot with people is that we’re making the greatest tribute album ever. 10 different musicians, all interpreting 10 great songs by one songwriter. Let us put together and present it to the world as a tribute album.
Ronald D. Moore: The other thing we talked about [with] Twilight Zone, or [rather what] not to do, was not to feed into the popular idea that Twilight Zone was all about the big twist at the end. And so we were always at pains to say ‘Look, we’re not doing that. That’s not the show, it’s not that every show has to end with the big surprising twist,’ cause that is a trap once you get into that then that’s gotta be every episode.
Kanter: You’re always outdoing yourself.
Moore: And the truth is the original Twilight Zone wasn’t like that either, that’s just what people remember the most about it.
Kanter: But we love that show.
Moore: It was great.
Kanter: We had Philip K. Dick sort of looking over our shoulder, in some way. We have to attain a certain level of quality and Rod Serling certainly is an extraordinarily inspiring figure for anyone that watches television.
Based on various writings from author Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams will consist of ten standalone episodes, each set in a different and unique world–some which lay in the far reaches of the universe and time, and others which are much, much closer to home. While the stories may be worlds apart, central to each is the poignant and warm exploration of the importance and significance of humanity. From five to 5000 years in the future, each compelling tale will both illustrate Philip K. Dick’s prophetic vision and celebrate the enduring appeal of the prized sci-fi novelist’s work.
Dinner and Moore also developed the show; the former adapted and directed the season finale, and the latter adapted the fifth episode of the season.
Over the course of its first season, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams features a cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Liam Cunningham, Essie Davis, Juno Temple, Janelle Monae, Steve Buscemi, Greg Kinnear, Mireille Enos, Anna Paquin, Terrence Howard, Timothy Spall, Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Jack Reynor, Benedict Wong, Maura Tierney, Annalise Basso, and Geraldine Chaplin.